The cross-dressing, multilingual comic speaks on matters from “the basic bloke-in-a-dress look” to international affairs.
Born in the British protectorate of Aden in 1962, Izzard claims he is “a really boring person” who just happens to have swallowed several libraries’ worth of books and lived a fairly interesting, if sometimes difficult, life. His mother died when he was very young, leaving it to a put-upon father and the English school system to raise him; he tends to divide the world into the time “before Mum died” and all the rest of it. One consequence: Izzard is an adamant atheist who holds that if there is anything like a god, then that deity has some explaining to do on matters such as “WWII, Hitler, bowel cancer, and Croc shoes.” Croc shoes may be one thing, but the author’s own garb of plastic trousers, frock or kimono, and black eyeliner was a choice that resulted from an effort to bring the glam aesthetic of David Bowie et al. to the comedy stage. Izzard charts a tough trajectory, from the first glimmers of a career at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 35-odd years ago to a kind of niche superstardom that has put him in concert films, dramatic and comedic movie roles, and other vehicles. Unusually, too, he has taken to performing comedy routines in several European languages, as a statement of universality and fraternity. Here, apart from recounting that path, he takes the opportunity to philosophize—earnestly and much less humorously than one might expect—on many issues of the day, from transgender rights to the struggle to replace pessimism with optimism in a time of hatred and fear. “Despair is the fuel of terrorism,” he writes, “and hope is the fuel of civilization, so we have to put more hope into the world than despair.”
Izzard’s many fans will enjoy his reflections, less outlandish than expected and more rueful than boastful.